Monday, August 20, 2012

Westgarth Town

'Shall we go to the shops, my sweet?'
'Again? Let's not'.

Right, on the second Sunday of each month Westgarth Town is open. Oddly Westgarth Town is not in Westgarth, but in Thomastown. Where is that? I knew enough to know it was on the Epping train line. I looked at an electric map. Too far from the station to walk. Ah, direct driving route is along very busy roads. Freeway then, although a longer a distance, it will be easier and probably quicker. It was about a half hour's drive.

Westgarth Town is the remains of a German settlement. There are a few houses remaining, privately owned and occupied, except for one which is an historic site.

It was slightly surreal. On one side of the street it suburbia and the other side a very old house and open land.

This is the shed on the boundary. Not much in there but a model of the settlement and an old horse cart. As well as the house there is a washhouse and meat curing shed.

The house is constructed of local bluestone, basalt if you like. There is still plenty of bluestone lying in the open areas. It makes cultivation very difficult. The house is the oldest German immigrant building in Victoria. I think it is now owned by the City of Whittlesea. The council certainly is responsible for the maintenance.

The outhouses and a forty feet deep well.

The Ziebell family built the house and developed the dairy farm.The last of the direct family died or moved out about 1970.

This garden would look a picture in the spring. It is tended by one of the Ziebell descendants. The bare rose in the foreground is perhaps 150 years old. The garden is part of Victoria's Open Garden Scheme.

Within the cavernous roofspace was the daughters' bedroom. It is a huge area but not so good if you are more the five feet tall.

The wind was bitingly cold, so we did not examine every grave in the nearby Lutheran Cemetery.

Descendants have a right to be buried in the cemetery. This grave is dated 2011.

This rather grand one is going to disappear soon, if the bushes are not cut back.

Across the field is the Lutheran Church. It was getting really cold by then, so we did not visit the church. We returned the car as some of the nearby local feral yoof exercised their best and extensive knowledge of some very old English expressions. I was amazed how many of these words they could fit into one sentence. I use sentence advisedly. The area of Thomastown seemed to be mostly developed in the 1970s and the houses are mostly neat enough but I've never seen so many old cars in an area. My twelve year old car would look very modern on the streets of Thomastown. Four wheel drive and SUV mania has not hit the area yet.


I've not had one for years, but suddenly I desperately wanted an apple pie from the Scottish Restaurant. As we drove towards the city along High Street, we saw every kind of takeaway food outlet except the one I wanted. But I knew we would eventually get to Clifton Hill. It makes most of the other restaurants in the chain look rather modest.

We needed something from the supermarket, so down Smith Street we drove and up onto the rooftop Woolworths carpark. Look V, there is Dance Cats.

Facadism can work if done properly. This case does not even approach properly. It looks just as absurd from 'inside' the building as is does looking at the outside. Just dreadful.

Now, how to get home by car from Smith Street. I wanted to go via Hoddle Street and Punt Road, but R suggested going via the City. Me? Drive in the City? Oh dear. Let me think. Can you turn right from Spring Street into Flinders Street? I didn't think so. We'll go down Lansdowne Street. Ha, you can't turn right at the bottom there either. Oh well, past the MCG and Punt Road it is.

17 comments:

  1. That is an interesting historic building/farm. It is good that it is still maintained. The garden sounds beautiful.

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  2. Thanks for the journey Andrew. I had no idea there was a German settlement in Victoria let alone that area.

    And yes, that facade in Smith Street is hideous. It looks like the developer was giving conservationists the finger while still complying with the law.

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  3. Hello Andrew:
    We found this most fascinating and had no idea that there had been German settlements in Australia before this post. And, as you say, what a very strange town.

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  4. Diane, a few weeks and the garden will be a picture.

    FC, I have since come across a couple of photos of the absurdity of the façade and I will get to post them at some point. As you say, yes, a plan was submitted that met the requirements.

    JayLa, South Australia is more famous for German settlements. Whole areas have traces of German history, from place names to building to towns. I am pleased we here have saved a tiny bit of the authentic.

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  5. That old United Kingdom Hotel (above), now MacDonald's restaurant, must be the only art deco building that MacDonald's uses in the world. I never thought I would love a Makkers so I am very pleased you photographed it.

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  6. Is Thomastown a suburb of Melbourne or a town in its own right? out in the country a bit?
    I love the look of the old bluestone, does anyone live in it now? Being only five feet tall, I'd probably fit in it quite nicely. When it was first built, the big shed was probably home to the house cow (for milk)and some fowl, either chickens or ducks or geese or even all three. Possibly a pig as well, since there was a separate smokehouse for the making of sausage and bacon. I'm really glad a tiny bit of Germany has survived this long in Victoria.

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  7. Hels, I was going to make mention that it was an old hotel, but the building wasn't the essence of the post. I've taken a photo of the whole building and posted it before, but I liked this tight photo I took. The next old building post will be of a very special place somewhat close to you, maybe late in the week. Think third Sunday of the month.

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  8. A suburb River. Past the end of the tram tracks, but not so far out. Yes, they would have all that in the shed, and naturally there was an orchard and vegetable gardens too.

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  9. Welcome to the other side of the River! You're right about the disjunction between the 1960s/70s brick veneers on one side of the road, then 19th century bluestone on the other. There's a few other bluestone houses scattered in surrounding streets as well. And that attic would be hell in summer, wouldn't it?

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  10. Janine, I should have given you a credit. I only heard about the place from you and eventually I made my own visit. As we turned off the big road, I said to R, it can't be here among all these houses. But it was. Yes, stinking hot up top in summer and freezing in winter. Somewhere else you mentioned too made me visit. What was that? Not Heide. Can't remember now. South Melbourne iron houses are on the list.

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  11. Janine, I should have given you a credit. I only heard about the place from you and eventually I made my own visit. As we turned off the big road, I said to R, it can't be here among all these houses. But it was. Yes, stinking hot up top in summer and freezing in winter. Somewhere else you mentioned too made me visit. What was that? Not Heide. Can't remember now. South Melbourne iron houses are on the list.

    And I do go north of the river. I used to get my hair cut in Brunswick Street.

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  12. That façade is just plain weird, and it looks like a big gust of wind would blow it down!

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  13. It's well braced Fen, but even so, it doesn't look secure.

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  14. Anonymous5:49 pm

    I must have forgotten to tell you - Dance Cats has moved and was sold to new owners! V.

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  15. I recall you saying Dance Cats moved, but to where we were or to somewhere else?

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  16. Anonymous5:24 pm

    I can't remember where it is now sorry but not where you were on Smith Street - that's where it moved from! V.

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  17. Ok V. Rathdowne Street, Carlton is the its present location.

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